The United States on Sunday welcomed the release of a journalist from a US-backed publication in Belarus, but called for freedom for hundreds of other prisoners arrested in a crackdown on dissent.

Radio Svabodnaya Evropa/Radio Svaboda reported a few days ago that one of its journalists, Oleg Gruzdzilovich, was released after nine months in prison.

The press secretary of the State Department, Ned Price, said that the US “welcomes” the release of Gruzdzilovich and a number of other persons.

“Although the release of these political prisoners is a step in the right direction, too many political prisoners remain behind bars in Belarus,” Price said in a statement. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.”

The UN Human Rights Office reported on Friday that Belarus holds about 1,300 people for political reasons.

Veteran Alexander Lukashenko tried to quell mass protests that erupted in 2020 after he was tipped to win a sixth presidential term.

Sviatlana Tsikhanovskaya said that she won the election and left Belarus to emigrate to neighboring Lithuania, where she heads the opposition.

63-year-old Gruzdzilovich was arrested allegedly for participating in protest actions. He denies the allegations and says he was there as a reporter.

Radio Svabodnaya Evropa/Radio Svaboda, which is funded by the US Congress but is an independent newsroom, reported that two more of its journalists, Ihar Losik and Andrei Kuznechyk, remain behind bars in Belarus.

In a July interview with the AFP agency, Lukashenka did not deny his “authoritarianism” and accused the protesters of actions “against the state and their own nation.”

Radio Svaboda is a sister network of Voice of America.

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